Continuous improvement as seen by… the All Blacks

Continuous improvement is a vast subject on which there is a huge amount to be said. This process, which can be defined as the will to do better continuously, has inspired many methods that have helped make gains in productivity and in competitiveness. But to initiate managers in the benefits of continuous improvement, I often prefer quoting from one of my bedside books – Legacy by James Kerr – and letting them hear how things are done in a rugby team with a legendary record, none other than the All Blacks…

A leadership specialist, James Kerr, in his world bestseller, has compiled fifteen lessons that the New Zealand rugby team can teach us about how to lead and manage a team and a company better. By analysing their training methods, he identified the reasons for their incredible record of success, so as to transpose those reasons to the world of work. I really like the book, that we will be able to come back to later, and above all it contains the following saying that I often quote in training sessions:

“You have to leave the jersey in a better place.”

That says it all. In donning the mythical jersey, an All Black is doing much more than preparing to play rugby. He is representing all those who have come before him, and whose legend he must ensure lives on until another player replaces him. He cannot allow himself either to be less good, or even as good as the preceding champions; he must do everything to surpass their feats. Every time they put their black jerseys on, New Zealand players go out to defend their legend, and that gives meaning to their efforts. Every one of us, at our own level, can take inspiration from this philosophy of life to surpass ourselves in our work and in our lives. What fires me? What do I personify? What is the meaning of my actions? What, deep-down, is the meaning of what I do? How can I surpass myself to help the team win?
To succeed in achieving this aim, the advice of the All Blacks is given by a former All Black, and it is quite simple:

“Success is modest improvement, consistently done.”
Sean Fitzpatrick

Micro-improvements made every day suffice to achieve victory, or more prosaically, to achieve one’s sales targets. It is by continuously seeking how to improve the details, one after another, that we finally become the best. It might not seem like much, but when we manage to progress every day even on the tiniest of things, we end up surpassing ourselves continuously, along the lines of the famous principle of continuous improvement. And you, where are you going to start today? How about watching a little Haka to fire us up for putting our hearts into it?

Virgil Benyayer